John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
The symptoms of kidney failure vary widely by the cause of the kidney failure, severity of the condition, and the other body systems that are affected.
Most people have no symptoms at all in the early stages of the disease, because the kidneys are able to compensate so well for the early impairments in the their function. Others have symptoms that are mild, subtle, or vague.
Generally, obvious symptoms appear only when the condition has become severe or even critical.
Kidney failure is not painful, even when severe, although there may be pain from damage to other systems.
Some types of kidney failure cause fluid retention. However, severe dehydration (fluid deficiency) can also cause kidney failure.
Fluid retention (This causes puffiness, swelling of arms and legs, and shortness of breath [due to fluid collection in the lungs, called pulmonary edema].)
Dehydration (This results in thirst, rapid heart rate [tachycardia], dry mucous membranes [such as inside the mouth and nose], and feeling weak or lethargic.)
Other common symptoms of kidney failure and end-stage renal disease include the following:
Urinating less than usual
Urinary problems (frequency, urgency)
Bleeding due to impaired clotting, from any site
Loss of appetite
Pain in the muscles, joints, flanks, chest
Bone pain or fractures
Pale skin (from anemia)
One may be able to prevent kidney failure, or slow the progression of the failure, by controlling underlying conditions. End-stage renal disease cannot be prevented in some cases.
Kidney failure has usually progressed fairly significantly by the time symptoms appear. If a person is at high risk of developing chronic kidney failure, he or she should see their health care professional as recommended for screening tests.
If one has a chronic condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, he or she should follow the treatment recommendations of their health care professional. One should see their health care professional regularly for monitoring. Aggressive treatment of these diseases is essential to preserving kidney function and preventing complications.
The person should avoid exposure to alcohol, drugs, chemicals, and other toxic substances as much as possible.